Last week’s awful tragedy at Los Angeles International Airport, which by all accounts involved a lone and troubled individual, was notable for the commendable calmness surrounding it. There were no calls for military detention, no cries of “act of war,” no demands that the President intervene to prevent the accused, Paul Ciancia, from “lawyering up” such as were heard in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. But the act itself is difficult to distinguish from what, in other cases, is described as terrorism that supposedly exceeds the competence or jurisdiction of civilian authorities. It was politically motivated: Ciancia’s writings were laced with anti-government sentiment. It was an explicit attack on government agents in the performance of their duties. It terrorized civilians.
The picture of the little boy killed by one of the bombs in Boston has gone round the world and is particularly poignant. How could anyone have done such a thing to so innocent a child? This is a natural emotional response.
But is it a morally appropriate response, however natural it might be? I am not sure that it is; indeed, it could almost be, indirectly and unintentionally, of assistance or comfort to terrorists.
Seven years ago almost to the day, the then still Prime Minister Tony Blair stood up in Parliament to announce with jubilation that London had won its bid to host the 2012 Olympics. That evening, in Trafalgar Square in the heart of the nation’s capital, a huge celebration was held to mark the occasion.
The very next morning, 52 Londoners innocently commuting to work lost their lives, and a further 800 sustained injuries, in an Al Qaeda attack on the capital’s transportation system.